Editor’s Note: A second review of My Cambodia and My Cambodian America by Van Anh Tran is available in the online supplements for this issue.
My interest in Asia dates back to when I was a child. My interest in Cambodia started when I began my teaching career in Attleboro, Massachusetts. Attleboro was one of the places where a large group of Cambodian families moved after leaving the refugee camps in Thailand after the Khmer Rouge period. My first Cambodian students in 1999 were born in Thailand in the Site II camp. Now, sixteen years later, my Cambodian-American students are second-generation Americans who are heading off to college and have a very different life than their older siblings, uncles, and cousins, who suffered the problems that first-generation students often have. I have taught Asian studies since 2005 as a senior elective, as well as World History II to freshmen. In both classes, I have spent a considerable amount of time on Cambodia. In all this time, one of the things that has been severely lacking is a curriculum or resources designed for teachers around the topic of Cambodia. We tend to view Cambodia from the view of wonderful ancient dynasties and horrible genocide, and this binary view distorts our approach to the real truth behind the complex history and wonderful culture that existed in the past, and continues to flourish in Cambodia and beyond. That curriculum has been lacking until now. SPICE released My Cambodia/My Cambodian America last October, and it fills a tremendous void. My Cambodia is a eighteen-minute film and My Cambodian America is a thirteen-minute film, along with a teacher’s guide that contains suggested lesson plans, handouts, extension activities, and resources.